3.2.1.10 The basics and Australian specific commentary

Set out below are the following:

  • "What is an interest rate swap?";
  • "Preliminary issues"; and
  • "Special issues".

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What is an interest rate swap?

An interest rate swap is an agreement between two parties for an exchange of interest rate flows in the same currency, with settlement on a net basis. Typically, one side is set at a fixed rate, the other by reference to a floating-rate indicator.

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Preliminary issues

To document interest rate swaps under Australian law using the ISDA Master Agreement participants should ensure that they have executed an ISDA Master Agreement with their counterparty. 

Has the participant used ISDA documents before?  If a participant is not familiar with the ISDA documents, it is recommended that they read:

  • the User's Guide and the ISDA Master Agreement;
  • the 2.1 "ISDA" commentary set out in the Guide; and
  • this part of the Guide, "Interest rate swaps".

If a participant is familiar with the ISDA documents, it is recommended that they start by reading this part and refer to the other areas of the Guide as necessary, by using the links provided.

Unless otherwise stated, this commentary on the various products is prepared on the assumption that participants use the 2000 ISDA Definitions and the 2002 ISDA Master Agreement.

A number of important changes were made to the hard-copy version of the Guide on 1 January 2002. Updates 1 to 8 in 6.1.2 "Updates as at June 30 2007" which can be found in 6.2 "History", explain these changes. It is recommended that participants carefully read these items. Take particular care in relation to the comments at the February 2005 Update to Part 5 in 6.1.2 "Updates as at June 30 2007" (ISDA Definitions booklets). 

The issues discussed in 4 "Issues", such as regulation, tax/stamp duty, netting, investment managers, novation and collateral, may also be relevant to interest rate swap transactions.

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Special issues

Set out below are some Australian specific considerations to be taken into account when completing the 3.2.1.30 "Interest rate swap confirmation without commentary". Further commentary can be found in 3.2.1.20 "Confirmation with commentary".

Fixed Amount

  • Fixed Rate Day Count Fraction. The Fixed Rate Day Count Fraction and the Floating Rate Day Count Fraction are normally specified in an abbreviated form, such as "Actual/Actual".  The Confirmations refer to various conventions for calculating the number of days elapsed. These are set out in Section 4.16 of the 2006 Definitions.

    It is important to specify a Fixed Rate Day Count Fraction which will normally be "Actual/365(Fixed)" which is consistent with the market practice in Australia. Note that if the word "(Fixed)" is not included, the denominator of the fraction will become 366 in a leap year.
  • Alternative for Australian Bond basis calculation. If the Fixed Amount is to be calculated on the Australian bond basis, insert a simple fraction being:

    1/A

    where A is the number of Payment Dates per annum. If the Termination Date is less than one year from the Effective Date, A is the number of Payment Dates that would have occurred in one year assuming a constant frequency of payments.
  • So, for example if a transaction involved quarterly Payment Dates and the Fixed Amount is to be calculated on the Australian Bond Basis, participants should insert:

    "1/4"

    alongside the item Fixed Rate Day Count Fraction.

    Of course, another way of proceeding would be to simply calculate the Fixed Amount and insert it rather than stating a Fixed Rate and a Fixed Rate Day Count Fraction.

Floating Amounts

  • Floating Rate Option. Article 7 of the 2006 Definitions refers to the definitions for various Floating Rate Options. Section 7.1 (a) of the 2006 ISDA Definitions sets out various Floating Rate Options for the Australian Dollar. Two of these options (AUD-BBR-AUBBSW and AUD-BBR-BBSW) are based on rates for bills of exchange and two (AUD-LIBOR-BBA and AUD-LIBOR-Reference Banks) are based on LIBOR.

    The AUD-BBR-BBSW rate is the one which would normally be used for domestic Australian dollar interest rate swaps.

    ** The AUD-BBR-BBSW rate was fully reviewed by AFMA before being put in the 1991 Definitions (and now reflected in the 2006 Definitions) and is the rate which should now generally be used if an Australian Dollar bank bill rate is required.

    To use the AUD-BBR-BBSW rate in a confirmation in which the 2006 Definitions are incorporated participants simply insert "AUD-BBR-BBSW" alongside the "Floating Rate Option" item. Nothing more is required for this item (although it is necessary to specify the Designated Maturity) **
  • Designated Maturity. This definition is used in the definitions of the various Floating Rate Options relating to Australian Dollars.

    For Australian Dollar Floating Rate Options based on bills of exchange (AUD-BBR-AUBBSW and AUD-BBR-BBSW), the Designated Maturity is the tenor of the bills of exchange on which the Floating Rate is to be calculated.  Normally the Designated Maturity will be three months for quarterly payment swaps and six months for semi-annual swaps.

    For Australian Dollar Floating Rate Options based on LIBOR (AUD-LIBOR-BBA and AUD-LIBOR-Reference Banks), the Designated Maturity is the term of the deposits on which LIBOR is based.

    It is at this item where participants should specify the Designated Maturity for Calculation Periods which differ from the Designated Maturity which will generally apply in the transaction.

    Care!  If the designated maturity does not match one of the terms for which BBSW is calculated, participants should consider whether to specify in their confirmation that "Linear Interpolation is to apply" (see Section  8.3 on p.84 of the 2006 ISDA Definitions). If Linear Interpolation does apply, the two Floating Rate Options needed to calculate the interpolated rate need to be specified. 
  • Floating Rate Day Count Fraction. See commentary on "Fixed Rate Day Count Fraction" above. If no Floating Rate Day Count Fraction is specified, the fraction will be determined in accordance with Section 6.2 (g) of the 2006 Definitions.  The Floating Rate Day Count Fraction specified by Section 6.2 (g) if an AUD-BBR Floating Rate Option is chosen is "Actual/365(Fixed)" which is consistent with the market practice in Australia. Note that if the word "(Fixed)" is not included, the denominator of the fraction will become 366 in a leap year.

Business Days

  • Specify the place for each currency to be applicable for the Business Day definition. See Section 1.4 of 2006 Definitions. This item need not be included if the Transaction is entirely A$ denominated and Sydney is the only centre which need be "open" (see Section 1.4 (a)(i) of the 2006 Definitions).

Last Update Date 29 Jun 2011